Never have I ever

During a recent Darija lesson, I learned the construction “ما عمّرني” meaning “I have never….” It uses the base word عمّر meaning to fill, with a suffix in agreement with the person (thus, for “I” (first person singular) the suffix is “ني”). Sentences are then constructed by adding the verb you have never done in its completed form (conjugated in agreement with the person). To demonstrate, in order to say “I have never yelled,” we will start with “ما عمّرني” and then finish with yell in its past first person singular form, “غوت” which gives us: “ما عمّرني غوت”. For an example from an actual Moroccan, I found this post from “Humans of Ifrane.” The subject says, “ما عمرني قريت” I have never studied. Another example discovered via twitter: “ماعمرني شفت شي تلفازة” I have never watched any television.

This grammar construction would be a great way to practice past-tense conjugation and agreement. Naturally, you can use this construction for other forms than the first person singular (I/me). These are all of the forms with their respective suffixes:

I have never

ما عمّرني

You have never

ما عمّرك

He has never

ما عمّره\عمّرو

She has never

ما عمّرها

We have never

ما عمّرنا

You (pl.) have never

ما عمّركم

They have never

ما عمّرهم

To make it an affirmative statement (example: I have drunk tea. عمّرني شربت الاتاي), you leave out the ما. To make it a question (example: Have you ever drunk tea? واش عمّرك شربتي الاتاي؟), you add واش to the start.

Here are some further examples found online. Notice how the “action” verb is conjugated in agreement with the person:

I have never watched any television

ماعمّرني شفت شي تلفازة

You have never heard her

ما عمّرك سمعتِها

We have never gone

ما عمّرنا مشينا

You (pl.) have never tried the “Baik” pastries

ما عمركم جربتوا معجنات البيك

They have never visited Spain

ما عمرهم زاروا اسبانيا

The armchair arabist also covered this topic here. Additionally, some kind soul (not me) created a quizlet for practicing.

واش عمّركم قريتوا الدارجة؟



شنو حدا؟ ليمون

Moroccan Arabic being “non-standard” and non-standardized has a certain amount of variation in its lexicon. Here you can find a table containing different translations for the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, black, and white from five different Darija books in their masculine, singular form, as well as the MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) words for each. To see how they change according to gender and case, I recommend looking at the Peace Corps Moroccan Arabic Textbook, page 85. I have included recordings of my resident Moroccan Arabic speaker saying each color in the most common form.

It is worth noting that the Chekayri book seems to keep the MSA spelling where the Darija word comes directly from MSA. The transcriptions in the book, however, were closer to the spellings of the other books (e.g. though red is written احمر in the Arabic script, its transcription was حmer rather than aحmer).

Additionally, here are some interesting (to me) facts about the names for purple:
*”حمامي” comes from the word for pigeon, referring to the purple color often found on their breast.
*”مْنِيّل” is now almost exclusively used in the deep South. It refers to the powder used to dye cloth.
*”مدادي” comes from the word for ink.

Color MSA Chekayri (2011) Peace Corps (2011) Sakulich (2011) Muñoz-Cabo (2009) Harrell (1963)
Red أحمر احمر حمر حمر حْمَر حْمَر
Orange برتقال ليموني ليموني، لتشيني رَنْجِ
Yellow أصفر اصفر صفر صفر (in Tetouan حميسي) صْفَر صْفَر
Green أخضر اخضر خضر خضر خْضَر خْضَر
Blue أزرق ازرق زرق زرق زْرَق زْرَق
Purple بنفسجي مدادي حجري، مدادي مدادي، حمامي، موڤ حْمَمِ مْنِيّل
Pink زهري وردي وردي وردي، حميسي وَرْدي وَرْدي، فَنِدِ
Brown بنّيّ قهوي قهوي قهوي قَهْوي صْمَر، قَهْوي
Black أسود اكحل كحل كحل كْحَل كْحَل
White أبيض ابيض بيض بيض بْيَض بْيَض


Bahhadi, Myriem, Laïla Gadouar, Farid Aitsiselmi & Lahsen Taibi. Parler l’arabe en voyage. Harrap’s, 2014.

Chekayri, Abdellah. An Introduction to Moroccan Arabic and Culture. Georgetown University Press, 2011.

Harrell, Richard S. A Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic: English-Moroccan. Georgetown University Press, 1963.

Muñoz-Cobo, Bárbara Herrero. Vocabulario Español-Árabe Marroquí. Universidad de Almería, 2009.

Peace Corps Morocco. Moroccan Arabic Textbook. 2011.

Sakulich, Aaron. Moroccan Arabic: Shnoo the Hell is Going on H’naa?. Collaborative Media International, 2011.

How I’m Learning Darija

Though I am very lucky to have my own personal Moroccan Arabic speaker living with me; it’s not fair to him to request he listen to and correct my babbling in Darija 24/7. As such, I am using books and CDs to introduce myself to the language in a gradual manner. I then use what I’ve learned to communicate with the native Darija speakers in my life.

Before I started studying Darija, I studied Fusha, Modern Standard Arabic, through the Assimil series. It was through Assimil I learned the Arabic alphabet, which is indispensable in learning Darija (or any other Arabic dialect). Many Darija teaching materials I have seen assume the learner already has a certain level of Arabic knowledge. Those resources tend to be written in Arabic script. Books and sites intended for the beginning Darija learner with no Arabic background are generally intended for tourists and may include Arabic script, but more likely will rely on a transcription in the Latin alphabet. There are plenty of resources for Modern Standard Arabic, but quality resources for Darija remain fairly limited (particularly resources for someone who has no background whatsoever in any Arabic dialect). Nevertheless, I have found the following to be useful:

Chekayri, Abdellah. An Introduction to Moroccan Arabic and Culture. Georgetown University Press, 2011. [I will write a review of this book in the future, once I’ve gotten further in the material. According to the introduction, it was created for use in conjunction with Modern Standard Arabic studies and assumes prior knowledge of the Arabic alphabet. The book comes with a CD-Rom containing the recordings of the dialogues and supplemental video resources on culture. The book is an excellent resource, very thorough, though I sometimes question some of the pedagogical choices. For instance, the difficulty in accessing the dialogue recordings — they are only accessible to listen to through the CD-Rom program (though, if you were willing to put in the work, you can, of course, copy the mp3s onto your phone/computer/mp3 player). Dialogues are at a natural pace, that is to say, they are not slowed down for the beginner. For this reason, I would recommend copying them over so that you may listen to the dialogues multiple times with ease.]

Sakulich, Aaron. Moroccan Arabic: Shnoo the Hell is Going on H’naa?. Collaborative Media International, 2011. [This is a somewhat bizarre book, not so much instructional as an excellent collection of lists of vocabulary and grammar. There are also some great selections of proverbs. The organization is somewhat haphazard, but filled with a great wealth of knowledge if you’re willing to look for what you need.]

Bahhadi, Myriem, Laïla Gadouar, Farid Aitsiselmi & Lahsen Taibi. Parler l’arabe en voyage. Harrap’s, 2014. [A fantastic phrasebook of Darija. It indicates where there are differences between the Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian dialects. I use it for learning vocabulary.]

Wightwick, Jane & Mahmoud Gaafar. L’arabe avant de partir. Harrap’s, 2008. [This book and CD combo is sadly now out of print. The audio is excellent for listening to while doing other things and uses Darija, indicating when there are regional differences. It introduces the listener to the necessary vocabulary for many different situations — as well as grammatical structures. It’s quite the shame it’s no longer available.]

These four books form the basis of my self-study. Aside from the Chekayri book, none would be sufficient for learning Darija and, even then, I would recommend supplementing the Chekayri book. In fact, the author assumes the student will be supplementing their studies with prior or concurrent knowledge of Arabic.